Justice Abdulazeez Anka of a Lagos Division of the Federal High Court Thursday awarded a cost of N20,000 against Olukoya Ogungbeje, counsel to suspected kidnapper, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans.
The judge further issued a warning to Mr. Ogungbeje to desist from practices unbecoming of a legal practitioner.
The judge issued the orders while adjourning a fundamental rights suit filed on behalf of Evans by Mr. Ogungbeje, over alleged illegal detention.
Joined as respondents in the suit are: The Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Police Command, The Commissioner of Police Lagos State, and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
Evans had sought a court’s order directing the respondents to immediately charge him to court in accordance with constitutional provisions, if there existed any case against him.
In the alternative, he had sought an order compelling the respondents to immediately release him unconditionally in the absence of any charge.
The case, which was scheduled for hearing on Thursday, could not proceed as Mr. Ogungbeje, was absent in court.
When the case was called, a litigation officer from Mr. Ogungbeje’s law firm, Stephen Abunike, told the court that his principal was indisposed and had written a letter seeking an adjournment.
Mr. Abunike added that he had attempted to serve a copy of the letter to the police counsel in court, but the counsel declined service.
In response, the counsel to the police, Emmanuel Eze, told the court that he had only seen the letter in court, and noted that the letter was signed by one Saheed Sanni, a lawyer in Mr. Ogungbeje’s law firm.
Mr. Eze urged the court to reject the excuse and consider same as an affront to the court, adding that it showed that the law firm was unserious.
He urged the court to award a punitive cost of N100,000 against the applicant and his counsel.
In a short ruling, however, Justice Anka awarded a punitive cost of N20,000 against Mr. Ogungbeje for what he described as unprofessional conduct.
The judge noted that while Mr. Ogungbeje had written a letter to the court, he did not send a copy of the letter to the counsel for the police.
According to the judge, it is unprofessional for a lawyer to communicate with a judge without carrying the other parties along.
The judge warned Mr. Ogungbeje to desist from such a conduct.
“The court has noted the conduct of counsel, who wrote to the court without copying other parties. This is unprofessional, and the court hereby warns the counsel to desist from such a conduct. A punitive cost of N20,000 is hereby awarded for such conduct,” the judge said.
Mr. Anka adjourned the case until July 20 for hearing.
In the suit marked, FHC/L/CS/1012/2017, Mr. Evans is contending that his continued detention by the respondents since June 10, 2017, without being charged to court or released on bail is an infringement on his fundamental human rights.
He argued that the respondents ought to have charged him to court in accordance with the provisions of Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution.
It was further argued that the alleged offence committed by the applicant (Evans) are correspondingly intertwined with the constitutional safeguards as provided under Sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution.
In a 27-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion deposed to by Evan’s father, Stephen Onwuamadike, it was averred that the applicant has been subjected to media trial without any court’s order by the respondents.
Evans’ father further averred that the media trial and news orchestrated by the respondents have continued to generate reactions in both print and electronic media without his son being afforded fair hearing and trial before a court of law.
The deponent also averred that since his son’s arrest, all his family members have been denied access to him while media practitioners have been granted unfettered access to him.
He is therefore, claiming the sum of N300,000 against the respondents, in damages.
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